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All You Need to Know About Pest Control in the Food Industry


The pest control industry has seen big innovations in execution, monitoring and prevention of pests in the last decade. While there is still room for improvement, different commercial pest control services will seek for new ways to improve current techniques and devise new methods to cope with pest infestations. However, pests in the kitchens, restaurants and food production will never be tolerated, which gives the companies a solid ground to step on.

There are many signs of pest infestation in kitchens and other food preparation areas – let’s explore together the world of different pests in the UK and what are the most popular ways of coping with them.

Most Common Concerns for Food Processing Businesses


Rats Are Common Pest for Commercial Properties

There are two different species of rats in the United Kingdom – the black (ship) rat or the brown (Norway) rat. Over the last century, the population of the ship rat diminished greatly in favour of the Norway rat. It eats almost one-tenth of their body weight each day and is omnivorous. However, if there are cereals, they will be the first ones to go down. Rats have high water intake requirements – in many cases, runs to a water source are observed, which can indicate whether your establishment has been infested with rats.

Apart from eating foodstuffs, they also damage them, alongside packages and containers, used for food storage. Rats also chew off electrical cables, wall materials, wall insulation, ledges, and corners, when making their way through or when nesting. Shockingly, rats can also gnaw on soft metals, such as lead or copper, as well as plastic. If your establishment has a garden, it can also be damaged by the rats, since they are known to gnaw on plants, too.

Rats carry various diseases, which can be transmitted to people and livestock, such as rat bite fever, salmonellosis, leptospirosis and murine typhus and rat infestations are amongst the most common issues of the food industry. Some of the many reasons why you should exercise restaurant pest control without any sparing of resources.


Mice Are a Nightmare For Every Commercial Kitchen

The two most common types of mice that cause trouble here are the house mouse commonly met in urban areas, as well as the field mouse, which causes seasonal problems in colder months. Mice are more resistant to lack of water and can make living on food with around 15% of water content. The little rodents eat everything – if wheat has been attacked by mice, it will look like grounded, whereas when rats eat it, it has a cut appearance.

Mice love food storage and food preparation areas – kitchens are their favourite location. Other places where you can find mice are pipes, baths, sub-floor areas and cupboards


Squirrels Could be a Menace in Commercial Properties

The grey squirrel is commonly accepted as a pest in the UK. However, it shouldn’t be mistaken for the red squirrel, which is preserved. If your restaurant is in a park or a forestry place, it might be in danger of grey squirrels. They find it very easy to access buildings while looking for food and place to hide. By doing so, they damage different products, packages, and constructions. There is even a law that proclaims the release of grey squirrels into the wild illegal.

Problems, associated with rodents

Some of the main reasons you don’t want any rodents at your place are various diseases these animals spread, as well as food contamination, food package and property damage. They contaminate the food, intended for cooking, with urine, faeces and other biological waste. Considering why is pest control important in food safety, we may have to pay attention to the fact that rodents also spread various pathogens, such as bubonic plague, escherichia coli, listeria, salmonella, toxoplasmosis and many others.

Rodents’ front teeth never stop growing their entire life, which makes gnawing on food the only way they keep their size normal. However, food’s not the only thing that falls victim under their sharp teeth – electrical wires and plumbing, as well as the very fabric of buildings, get damaged very often.


Cockroaches, a Common Pest in Kitchens

Cockroaches have been around for over 200 million years, and during that time, many of them developed as pests. Originally thriving in tropical climates, pest type species now have spread to all parts of the world, through commerce, public transportation and shipments of goods. Depending on various factors, such as temperature, humidity, food quality and length of the day, the cockroaches can develop differently.

Cockroaches contaminate food easily by releasing biowastes, such as faeces, disgorged food, and their own foul smell. Apart from that, they pollute the air in the infected facility, too, which can contain parts of their excrements and exoskeletons. As it is with many insects, they move from filthy places to clean ones without any remorse, therefore they carry dirt and pathogens. You will need to implement a full cleaning regime after the initial treatment, as the residual waste remains active for a short period.


common house fly

There are thousands of different fly species around the world, and, even though only a handful interact with humans, they classify as the most dangerous of all. They easily spread diseases by being able to fly from dirt to food, with multiple various organisms that cause diseases on their body. Flies spread easily, thanks to international travel throughout oceans and air.

Despite their quite short life span, their increased mobility allows flies to easily visit a number of different dirty habitats, thus spreading microbes and bacteria.


Ants, Common Pests For The Kitchen

Even though ants fall into the category of nuisance pests, their presence around food still has a large impact on its health safety. Ants can transfer infections through microorganisms on their bodies, as it is perfectly easy for those insects to find their way through the premises to food. Any food that contains ants should be thrown out to prevent further contamination and spread of disease.

Stored Product Insects

Stored product insects (or SPI) use their preferred food source as a habitat for living, breeding, and hiding. Some of the most common goods attacked are nuts, dried fruits, cereals, pulses.

SPI divide into two categories, depending on the way they infest food:

  • Primary SPI have the ability to eat through whole grains. Their life cycles can be completed both inside (Internal primary SPI), or outside the grain (External primary SPI);
  • Secondary SPI – they are more likely to eat the fungus in a rotten product;

Particular species of SPI infest particular products:

  • Legumes – bruchid beetles;
  • Coffee and Cocoa beans – flour beetles, merchant grain beetles, warehouse moths;
  • Cheese – mites, larder beetle, copra beetle;
  • Dried fruit – Indian meal moth, merchant grain beetles, tobacco beetle, dried fruit beetle, mites;
  • Dried vegetables – Indian meal moths;
  • Flour and milled cereal – flour beetles, mill moth, Indian meal moth, cadelle, flat grain beetle, mites;
  • Grain (wheat, rice, corn, cereals) – rice weevil, grain weevil, lesser grain borer, saw-toothed grain beetle, cadelle, flour beetle, Indian meal moth and mites;
  • Pasta – rice and grain weevils, milled cereal pests;
  • Nuts and confectionery – Indian meal moth, merchant grain beetle, mites;
  • Animal materials – dermestid beetles, clothes moths, scavenging moths;


Albeit the fact that all wild birds, nests and habitat are considered protected under the European Wildlife and Countryside Act from 1981, some species which are considered pests can have that protection abolished. They are listed on the General Licences and that list is updated each year. Various control methods are applied to preserve health and safety of the public. It is important to note, that before everything else, non-lethal methods of purging the pests must be applied.

In the restaurant and hospitality business, the main pest birds are:

  • The feral pigeon
  • The house sparrow
  • The large gull

Food problems birds cause

  • Food damage – bird droppings damage the quality of the finished goods and their packaging in warehouses;
  • Raised maintenance costs – gutters and down pipes are very often blocked by droppings and bird nests. The water that overflows as a result of this, decays the building material, decorations, and its overall structure;
  • Food contamination – pigeons excrements, gull regurgitated pellets, nesting materials, and feathers are a source of grain contamination.
  • Disease spreading – sparrows, gulls, and pigeons often carry bacteria, that cause various diseases, such as salmonellosis and ornithosis.

Pest Control Procedures in The Food Industry

There are two different food hygiene regulations under which UK food business obey:

  • Regulation (EC) 178/2002 of the EU parliament which lays down several principles and requirements of the food law. Article 14 tackles specifically the problems of unsafe food and goods that are unfit for human consumption are deemed unsafe.
  • Regulation (EC) 852/2004 – which lays down general requirements for food businesses, concerning the food premises, the pest control procedures, and the hygiene of foodstuffs.

Either internal auditors or external independent organisations are required for the food business to carry out food safety audits on a regular basis. The report comprises of several criteria which strive to seek out the highest standard of food safety law compliance. The pest management technologies must answer to a hundred percent infestation clearance, as well as conform to the methods, required by law. However, the criteria needn’t be over-descriptive, as that will slow down the process.

DIY vs. Expert Pest Control

Those involved in the food business must always follow strict pest control procedures. However, there are many cases in which owners resort to DIY measures to help with pest infestation. Nevertheless, DIY methods prove to be quite ineffective, compared to expert pest control services and here is why:

  • Over-the-counter pesticides available for everyone are far less efficient as commercial grade chemicals, which are only available to licensed pest control companies;
  • Your own personnel might not be trained on the proper way to apply those chemicals on your property, in order for them to be effective enough;
  • Over-the-counter solutions are not strong enough and pests can develop resistance over time;
  • In the pursuit of being overly effective, you might resort to multiple pest control measures, such as baits and chemical sprays, but using the latter will make the first one redundant since no pests will come near the sprayed trap;
  • It’s less expensive to hire an external pest control company, rather than educating your staff on the proper techniques over time;


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